I'm post-partum, too

It's been sad here. We realized yesterday that Julia was not getting enough to eat through breast feeding and had to give her formula. Kristin's best friend is a lactation consultant and was out here this afternoon helping and we're working on increasing Kristin's milk supply so that we can stop the formula supplements. On a positive note, giving Julia formula last night resulted in us getting about 4 hours uninterrupted sleep.

Kristin feels terrible, was devastated, was crying. I feel terrible. Not because of the formula, (though I agree that breast milk is best, and I really want to be a supportive partner about breast feeding) but because this last week my hormones have been out of control. I have had mood swings, weepiness, and anxiety. If I didn't know better, I'd think that I had just given birth. My breasts are even larger and sore (but not lactating, unfortunately). So I feel bad that instead of being calm and even-keeled during Kristin's emotional storm, I just jumped right in with the crying and feelings of worthlessness. It was pretty bad, even the dogs wept in their doggie way.

On a post before the baby was born, Anne at Land Mammal commented that perhaps I was taking in Kristin's hormones and reacting to them. I replied with a comment about the phenomenon of Couvade in which the male partner of a pregnant woman experiences "sympathy" pregnancy symptoms. Research has revealed that these men do have elevated levels of hormons similar to their wives (only at levels not as high) and I speculated that perhaps my hormones are fluctuating with Kristin's to an even greater extent because of the sensitivity women have to other women's hormones. I'm beginning to believe that that's very true. During Kristin's labor, I suddenly got the worst period I have had in a very long time, complete with killer cramps. We joked about sympathy labor. Then we both got weepy and irritable. Wondering why I was suddenly going crazy when I felt I should be so unadulteratedly blissfull, I went to see my therapist. She commented that she has had other lesbian clients who have had the same problems. Though it is most likely being compounded by my serious lack of sleep, her diagnosis is that I am, indeed, post partum.


So, a warning and a question:

Those of you reading this who are in lesbian relationships trying to get with child should keep this in mind and make plans accordingly. What kind of plans, you ask? I don't know. Buy lots of tissues? Bring tampons and/or pads to the hospital for the non-birthmother? (I didn't do that and I had to have a friend bring me some the evening Julia was born after I had used up the ones we had brought for Kristin's lochia). I just wish I felt a little more stable in order to be a better support for the woman who is truly post partum over here.

Did any of you who read this blog and are already non-biological mothers experience this post partum hormonal rollercoaster? How did you handle it?

Posted by Trista @ 10:51 PM

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Unrelated to hormones, except tangentially, but I have a question. Is there any way you can lactate? I'm just sitting here as I breastfeed, locking at Erik's flat chest and wishing oh wishing he could lactate. While that's truly impossible, is it possible to, say, put the baby to your breast and see what happens, or, rather, take medication to make it happen? I'm a firm believer that breasts are amazing in their capacity to surprise.

Posted by Blogger Nik @ 1:01 PM #

The question of my lactating is complicated. I could lactate if I worked hard enough at it. There is a shot I could take, but since I have no insurance at the moment, I don't want to pay for it. So, I would just need to pump, pump, pump. Perhaps using a supplementer and feeding her formula or Kristin's breastmilk through it, I could feed the baby while stimulating my breasts.

However, all the books we've read say that the non-bio mom should wait at least 6 weeks before trying to breast feed the baby so as not to interfere with the birth-mom's milk supply since the non-bio mom will (supposedly) never be able to completely support the baby on her breast milk should the bio mom's supply dry up due to missed feedings. Of course, Kristin's already having supply problems (though they seem better today) so I suppose if I were lactating, it would only be a good thing. Still, I start a full time job on Tuesday and I'm not sure that I would want to have to do the necessary pumpings there. Plus, Kristin and I are still toying with the idea of getting me pregnant in the next year so the kids will only be a year or so apart. Lactating could interfere with my cycle. I must admit, though, that I do wish I could breast feed our baby instead of giving her formula... last night we were able to take turns sleeping since I had the ability to feed the baby, and that was really nice.

Oh, and it is possible for men to lactate! They have to work harder at it, but they do have all the equipment. There are even stories of male pioneers breastfeeding their infants when the mothers died on the trail. So, I don't see why Erik can't get a breast pump and a supplementer and take one for the team...

Posted by Blogger Trista @ 2:02 PM #

Fascinating. I'm sorry if the question was a bit personal, but I am so glad you responded so eloquently. Erik is pumping right now (OK, actually he's toying with his boy nipples saying, Trista said it's "possible, not probable." We'll see.
And I thought I was thinking all creatively, but you've already covered all the bases. I hope you do decide to get pregnant next year. That sounds like the most fun of all projects. Then you can revisit Postpartum Depression and think "yes. I did have it then and I do have it now. In fact, now that I have two babies, I'll never leave the house again. I may as well cut my feet off and resign myself to being a boob for the next eightenn years. Maybe when the babe's in college, she can learn to replicate my feet. Although, kids these days. They don't think of the sacrifices of their parents." These are the thought I have. I imagine going back to work will help in one way (I'm free, I'm free) and make it all worse on the other (I want to see my baby. NOW).
I find postpartum depression to be identical to my natural state: What am I doing with my life? Why am I so unappreciated? Why didn't I have children in my 20's? Was I always this dumb? Lazy?Inefficient? Why do I grit my teeth when Zoe bites my nipple? If I loved her enought, I'd smile through the biting. In fact, if I was a better mom, she wouldn't be biting my nipple off.
Anyway, too long for a comment, but I just want you to know how I appreciate how forthcoming and brilliant your response was.

Posted by Blogger Nik @ 5:05 PM #

I can't believe I go away and I come back to this! I have been enthralled with everything and I am so pleased for you guys! I am sorry things seem hard and emotional right now too... I can't imagine how we'll be. We cried when we moved because the change felt so intense. We moved, incidentally, just across town. We're in for it, I think. That is if we ever can get a baby.

Congratulations again! So much beauty!


Posted by Blogger Katie (WannaBeMom) @ 8:29 AM #

Nik: No, I didn't think that was too personal a question at all. I AM a confessional poet. My answer to the lactation question was nothing compared to the types of things I'll tell people with absolutly no questions or prompting. You just keep telling Erik that he has to MAKE it happen. He'll win fathering awards, I'm certain of it.

Katie: Thanks! You and your partner WILL have a baby (or two) I'm certain of it. And hopefully it will happen this cycle. I love your blog and you have all my white light and physically distant support. i guess the difference between childbirth and moving is that a house doesn't love you back!

Posted by Blogger Trista @ 11:13 AM #

I'm sorry to hear you're down. I wonder if post-partum depression serves a purpose, or if it's just a fluke of nature. Maybe it's nature's way of keeping the mother(s) calm and close to the baby during this critical survival period.

That's interesting to hear about the pioneer men breat feeding. I had heard rumors of breast-feeding men, but didn't know if they were sustantiated. I wonder if the pioneer men had to work hard to get the pipes flowing, and if so, where did they get the idea?

Posted by Blogger StateShift @ 11:02 AM #

We were very concerned about post-partum before our baby was born because we are both highly prone to the big D. But it turned out not to be an issue for either of us. We did have a lactation midwife consult half a dozen times, and I was interested that she inquired about depression directly every single visit. I found it reassuring that she did that. I don't believe that there's anything we did or did not do that you would find helpful. Depression just is, like the ocean or something. I do remember that every friend and family member under the sun came to visit us. Some people don't want visitors at first, but I liked that part of it.

Posted by Anonymous Robin @ 10:58 AM #

I just sent this post to my lovely wife, who I don't think had yet been worried about us both having post-partum depression.

Thanks for the 'heads up' though. At least we'll know to be on the lookout for both of us.

Posted by Anonymous Liza @ 2:10 PM #

I am not sure if any one else (I bet they have) has thought of this, but Adoptive parents (the Mom one any ways) can nurse the baby if she takes vitamins or something elaborate. Is it too late for you to help produce the milk? You sound like your body would be willing and able if you could figure it all out. I have no other info here though. But feel better to you both. Your in this together obviously majorly! Hugs and enjoy your beautiful Daughter.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 2:24 AM #

forgive me. Had I read all your wonderful comments I would have not commented myself. Congrats on thinking of baby number two. I hope you go for it. Smart people lean towards depression so I wouldn't worry about that much. Your babes genes will just have a lot of Smart in them. :o)

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 2:34 AM #
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